MHS turn on magic

2014-05-06 00:00

Michaelhouse 20 — 13 Hilton

AMONGST the things one comes to expect from a Hilton-Michaelhouse derby are a packed ground, wonderful atmosphere and arguably the best pre-game “spell” show in the whole of SA.

With all the above boxes ticked, the good weather also added to this occasion at Balgowan, creating an almost perfect setting that was made complete by the first XV players of both private schools producing an absorbing game that held everyone’s attention from the first kick-off right through to the final whistle.

Michaelhouse’s pack of forwards laid the platform for point scoring opportunities. They were disruptive to the Hilton line­out and as the game wore on they began to totally dominate the scrums as well.

In broken play, numerous Michaelhouse forwards stood out for their ball-carrying abilities, which saw them often breaking through the advantage line and generating some seriously good go-forward ball.

There were several passages of play involving effective continuity by the host team and their variation of the attacking points and ball-runners used was also very pleasing as was their handling skills.

Prop Brandon Jackson, lock Gary Porter and number eight Matthew Potgieter were reliable and all made many metres throughout the game with carries.

The outstanding player of the day was House’s Bradley Roberts.

The mobile hooker was given the licence to hang off the sides of rucks, allowing him to play a very loose game and he stood out above all others on the park as a go-to player who could manipulate the defence thanks to his ability to identify space and strike.

The net result of the forwards’ contribution to the Michaelhouse play was control of territory and possession for the best part of the first half and the large slice of the second half as well. On defence House were also very solid.

However, all the hosts had to show for their efforts at the break was a 9-3 lead, compliments of the deadly accurate boot of flyhalf Bader Pretorius.

Two of these three penalties had been awarded for Hilton being offside when MHS were on attack, while the third, a 50-metre effort, was for Hilton players not retreating when their own box kick had gone all wrong.

In the second half Bader would add two more penalties from side entry and sealing infringements by Hilton at the ruck to finish off with five from six kicks at goal — a 15-point contribution.

In the 56th minute, via an excellent patient build-up involving quite a few phases, ball went through the hands to the left where Bradley Roberts was in a position to again challenge the defence and this time cross the try-line near the left corner for a well-worked team try. This was Michaelhouse’s first and only try.

Taking into account the efforts of the House forwards and then relating it back to the closeness of the final score, suggests that there were other key factors to the outcome of this game.

Focusing on the negative first, it has to be said that Michaelhouse did not possess a knock-out blow on the day.

Hilton were under the cosh for a large part of the game. Genuine front-foot attacking opportunities were few and far between.

It’s not that they didn’t try to make things happen when they had the ball, it’s just that they had so little of it in good field positions.

At some point during the match it should have been reasonably expected that House’s direct attacking style and ball retention would have sucked in defenders or created mismatches or forced mistakes that resulted in clean breaks for the hosts and ultimately tries.

This just never happened. Hilton stayed in the game through outstanding focused defensive work.

When their first line of defence was breached, they had secondaries in place. And when they were not organised, they re-organised themselves at a rapid rate.

They pressured the House backline at every chance. Best of all was the Hilton contesting of everything and anything that went to deck via a tackle.

Yes, they gave away four penalties during the game from defensive lapses but in truth the 12 points was a small sacrifice given the circumstances.

Their overall discipline in defence was of a high standard. Blindside flank Brad Dickerson had a very good game for the visitors but this 14 team-mates all deserve pats on their backs for the commitment shown in the face of adversity.

Probably the best Hilton attacking highlight of the first half was a beautiful pacy 50-metre run up the right by wing Terry Matsa, who in the process ran around a defender like he did not exist.

That happened about 20 minutes into the game. Hilton still had to wait another nine minutes after that bit of excitement for their first points, scored shortly before half time when outside centre Tristan Blewett landed a penalty. Michaelhouse had been leading 9-0 before that.

The wonderful game that rugby is, then showed that it can be as unpredictable as the bounce of the ball itself.

Hilton out of nowhere snatched the lead in the 41st minute when they scored the first try of the game.

Hilton players deserving praise in the build-up included hooker Bafana Motloi, prop Andrew Svenningsen and Tristan Blewett. The visitors took play deep into the redzone and at the back of a ruck broke the House line when Hilton number eight Sebastian Desvaux de Marigny picked the ball up with one hand, dived forward, stretched out his arm and slammed it down over the goal-line.

Blewett converted and incredibly Hilton were up 10-9, a lead that lasted three minutes before Michaelhouse went back in front at 12-10.

Hilton’s final points also came from Blewett’s boot in the 57th minute, a penalty narrowing the gap to 20-13 on the scoreboard, which did not change again.

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